Today, June 30, is the fiesta celebration of my home city of Tacloban in the central Philippines. It is highlighted by the Sangyaw (local word for dance) Festival. It is a dazzling street parade showcase of pomp and pageantry, of costumes and choreography. This was taken in 2011, the last time I was in Tacloban. If you follow world news, Tacloban City may sound familiar to you. In early November 2013, it was ground zero and in the direct path of Typhoon Haiyan, a category 5 super typhoon, the strongest cyclone to hit land packing sustained winds of 315 kph. It left more than 6,000 dead and over 1,000 missing, most of them in Tacloban. Today, after a year and a half, I have heard the city has recovered from the devastation. And I hope the celebration this day will continue the tradition of people carrying those festive smiles, graceful poses and a resilient spirit. God bless them!
These photos were taken earlier in the week during a local festival. People were in colorful, native attire. But that’s just it, I get color fatigue after featuring full vibrant pictures the whole week. If you’re new to this blog, I reserve weekends for monochrome, a respite from the magnificence of color and a return to the striking simplicity of black and white. Since these are festival images, expectedly they are filled with people and details rendering them almost a dissonance of forms, a disarray of shapes. Yet in black and white, one still finds order – a harmony of mood, expressions, movement and drama. No wonder black and white is the preferred medium for portraits, photojournalism, street and people photography. It cuts through the clutter and presents purity even with subjects in seeming disorder. It was father of Canadian photojournalism Ted Grant who said:
When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!
All the best to everyone! Keep on clicking!
Happy weekend bloggers!
It goes without saying that if you want to photograph a festival, you should know what the festival is all about! You should know how it originated, what it commemorates, and what the significance is, in relation to the current times. Armed with this knowledge, you could decide your “workflow” – the series of pictures you should take to record the event without missing out on any important picture taking opportunity. In other words, do your homework and plan out your strategy rather than going to the festival and then taking photos haphazardly. If you are new to the location or if you have not covered such a festival earlier, it would be wise to ask the locals about the path of the procession, the type of ceremonial floats, the time for the event to start, and whatever other information that you think will help you in your picture-taking project. If you can check out the details with the organizing committee, so much the better, as the information could be more specific, and more reliable. All this takes time, so make sure you don’t think of ‘what-am-I-supposed-to- do’ at the last minute. Remember though, a festival may not necessarily have a parade and floats.
~Rohinton Mehta from his article How To Photograph Festivals
These are headless and sometimes bodiless shots that you will not find in any well-meaning photojournalism or travel publication. It will not pass the scrutiny of photo editors. And as a photographer you know it’s a no-no to chop off the head. Even casual snapshooters know that. Of the many Philippine festivals I’ve covered, I take in the big picture most of the time, that’s how you photograph precision, choreography and action of performers and participants. But I also have this tendency to zoom in on body parts and details particularly lower extremities, capturing the dynamics of the human form during still moments or split-second movement. These images from the Dinagyang Festival may not find its way into magazines but heck, they sure found their way into my photographic mind and heart. The non-traditional can also be fascinating.
To be fair, some of my “traditional” shots of festivals have been used in in-flight magazines and travel websites.
It’s the subject matter that counts. I’m interested in revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it. A photo is able to capture a moment that people can’t always see. ~Harry Callahan
This to me is the joy of informal people photography – being able to capture pure, spontaneous, unrehearsed, off-the-cuff moments of genuine expressions, such as in this series of images taken at a local water festival.